Unable to reach an accord that would extend their 30-year affiliation, CBS and WRAL are parting ways. Come Feb. 29, WRAL will become the the market's NBC affiliate and Media General's WNCN will become its CBS affiliate.
WNCN, WRAL Swap Affiliations In Raleigh
Capitol Broadcasting’s WRAL Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (DMA 25) and CBS are breaking up after failing to come to terms on renewing their 30-year affiliation.
WRAL has signed on with NBC, while CBS moves to Media General’s WNCN.
The switch is effective Feb. 29.
“CBS’s business model and our business model are not compatible with one another,” said Steve Hammel, VP and GM of WRAL without getting into specifics.
After “many, many months” of negotiations, he said, “we needed to make a decision to go with a long-term partner that saw the value in a community-oriented broadcaster.”
Hammel said the breakup is CBS’s loss. WRAL has been CBS’s No. 1 affiliate in the top 25 markets, he said. “I don’t think one would want to make a change and lose its No. 1 station.”
Hammel added that he is happy to be part of the NBC family, noting that it airs the Olympics every other year and has been the No. 1 broadcast network in the 18-49 demo in primetime for the past three seasons.
He stressed that one of the merits of the NBC deal is that it is long term. How long, he wouldn’t say.
A source close to CBS said the root of the problem was reverse comp. After it it became clear that Capitol was not going to give WRAL “fair market value, CBS looked elsewhere.”
Ray Hopkins, president of network distribution for CBS, said in a statement that he was pleased that “Media General recognizes the unique value of being an affiliate of the No. 1 television network. This is a great deal for our partners at Media General, and a great deal for CBS. Together, we look forward to serving the viewers we share for years to come.”
Like Hammel, Capitol Broadcasting CEO Jim Goodmon suggested in a prepared statement that it was WRAL that walked away from the table. “It came down to the question, ‘What network do we believe is best positioned for the future of local broadcasting?’ It is clear to us that NBC understands the value that local affiliates bring to the entire network relationship. We’re local broadcasters first. As the industry continues to change, we believe this switch to NBC positions us well for the future.”
NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert said his network was pleased to have WRAL on board. “The Fletcher/Goodmon family’s WRAL is widely recognized as one of the best stations in the nation,” he said. “All of us at NBC are thrilled to combine our decades of dedication to network and local broadcasting in order to proudly serve the thriving Raleigh-Durham market.”
Media General CEO Vincent Sadusky chimed in with praise for his new broadcast partner in Raleigh. “CBS has been a longstanding and valued partner for many years, and we are pleased to build upon our relationship with a new affiliation in Raleigh,” he said. With Raleigh, Media General will count 23 CBS affiliates.
In a related development, Media General announced that it had renewed its NBC affiliations in 13 other markets.
The CBS-WRAL breakup is another sign of the rising tensions between the networks and affiliates as the networks keep upping their demands for reverse comp.
The is the second time in two years that CBS and an affiliate split over reverse comp. Last year, it cut loose Media General’s WISH in favor of Tribune WTTV. WISH is now affiliated with CW.
CBS, along with Warner Bros., is battling with Tribune over reverse comp for the CW. Tribune is the CW’s principal affiliate group, with outlets in six of the top 10 markets. If the CW partners cannot reach an agreement with Tribune, it may offer CW as a pay OTT service like CBS All Access.
Earlier this month, ABC said it was switching affiliates in Tri-Cities, Va.-Tenn., abandoning its longtime affiliate WPKT at the end of this month with nothing but MNT to sustain it in primetime. Media General figured in that drama, too. It’s CBS affiliate there, WJHL, won the ABC rights and will carry the network on a subchannel.
WPKT says ABC made the move because Media General is willing to pay more reverse comp. ABC says it simply needed a stronger affiliate in the market.